WATCH | Grant payment mess: Hundreds of Sassa beneficiaries starve as payouts not entirely resolved
“Bengicela undiphe iR3, ndifuna ugoduka [can you please give me R3, I want to go home].”
This was the plea from one of the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) beneficiaries who was forced to beg for money to go home when their monthly grants were not paid and South African Post Office (Sapo) officials had no clue how to help hungry pensioners who waited for many hours, only to be told “there is no money”.
Tuesday will mark seven days since hundreds of grant beneficiaries have not received their Sassa payments. The grants for elderly recipients were supposed to be paid last Tuesday and disability grants last Wednesday, but some beneficiaries did not receive payments because of technical difficulties experienced by Postbank.
This affected mostly those who still have the Sassa gold card.
Postbank promised the problem was fixed last Wednesday, but this was not the case for scores of beneficiaries who came from different parts of Johannesburg to again queue at the Marshalltown Sapo branch on Monday.
The beneficiaries included those getting foster care children’s grants but most were elderly people.
Anger, desperation, hunger and disappointment were reported when many said they arrived at the Sapo branch from as early as 5.30am but had not received help when the branch closed at 4pm.
Sapo officials were met by an angry crowd when power was switched off at 2pm due to load-shedding and they told people to return home empty-handed.
Former trauma nurse at Milpark Hospital Christiana van Zyl, 72, almost fainted while waiting in the queue because she was thirsty. She was helped by other pensioners who rushed to get her water.
Tuesday will mark seven days since hundreds of grant beneficiaries have not received their Sassa payments. The grants for elderly recipients were supposed to be paid last Tuesday and disability grants last Wednesday, but some beneficiaries did not receive payments because of technical difficulties experienced by Postbank. TimesLIVE spoke to some beneficiaries at the Marshalltown Post Office . #News #Southafrica Support independent journalism by subscribing to TimesLIVE Premium. Just R20 for the first month.
Van Zyl spoke to TimesLIVE inside the post office in the dark while officials kept telling the elderly there was no money but they refused to go home.
“I stood for a very long time outside and I started to feel a headache and lower back ache. I sat down because I was starting to breathe faster. I have an underactive thyroid and I’m myeloblastic anaemic.
“I usually buy my medication from Clicks with my Sassa card but I could not get the money on Tuesday,” she said.
Van Zyl said she last took her medication a week ago and was feeling weaker by the day. She wanted to wait until 4pm for the power to come back to be assisted but was told “there is no money”.
She started packing her bag at 3.30pm and began to walk to Ghandi Square to catch a bus to her home in Newlands. She told TimesLIVE she was worried about being robbed and hid the bus fare she was given by one of the people with whom she waited in the queue.
Pretty Nzama, 58, from Nancefield informal settlement in Soweto told TimesLIVE she arrived at the branch at 6am and had only eaten a piece of avocado she got from a street hawker who felt sorry for her.
She said she shared the avocado with pensioners in the queue who also did not have money to buy food.
“When you get to the till they tell you there is no money. They give you a piece of paper that says ‘declined’ and tell you to come back the next day. It has been the same thing since last week and today [Monday] was no different.
“There is no food in the house and I feel sad for the 11-year-old child I stay with. He is suffering. This is painful,” Nzama said.
Pregnant Jessica Theron, 31, from Turffontein was number 331 in the queue and sat at the bus stop with red eyes when load-shedding hit the post office branch as this meant the day ended without her receiving her grant payment.
Theron told TimesLIVE she was stranded and had no money to get home. She was forced to walk back home.
“Last Thursday I was here from 9am and the lines were long. I eventually got in but at 4pm they closed and told us they cannot help us. I came back on Friday, and it was the same story. I had to walk back home,” she said.
Theron said she had to borrow money to buy food for her children.
“I did not eat today because I did not expect the long queues. I thought most people received assistance on Friday. The situation was not this bad last month. Everyone is coming here because they have problems with their cards and this is the one branch that uses fingerprints.”
“We want our money. We are not going anywhere,” disgruntled pensioner Jeanette Mabulwane, 68, shouted out of desperation when they were told to leave the branch.
Mabulwane said she had been sent from pillar to post since last week when she asked about her grant payment.
“Why is the government that we voted for treating us like this? They stole my money. I went to Pick n Pay last week to withdraw my grant and only had R60 from my Sassa grant.
“I am suffering. I have nothing. I must be a beggar. They (post office officials) get money every month but they cannot help us and every day they tell us a different story. I am fighting for my R2,000. They took my Sassa card and came back to tell me that I do not have money,” Mabulwane said.
Makhulo Rajuili, 73, from Orange Farm was short of R4 to get a bus home.
Rajuili described post office officials as people who do not care.
“I arrived here at 9am but until now [3pm] I did not receive help. My daughter-in-law works here and she was able to help with money at home. I ate one banana since the morning. I am hungry.
“The government is failing us and no one is explaining to us what is happening. We have to come here every day but we do not get help. There is nothing to eat at home.”
Fikile Yembe, 65, from Vanderbijlpark said she was told by her local Sapo branch to visit the Marshalltown branch because they could not help her after her card was declined due to insufficient funds last week. Yembe said when she went to withdraw her grant there was only R96 in her account instead of R2,090.
“I was fortunate that my children helped with money to travel here and go back home. This situation is bad because it is forcing us to live on handouts from family members and that should not be the case.”
Postbank was approached for comment but had not replied by the time of publishing.
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